Typical classroom-based course scenario - ICMC

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Supporting Long-term Educational Activities through
Dynamic Web Interfaces
Maria da Graça Pimentel ([email protected])
Instituto de Ciências Matemáticas e de Computação, Universidade de São Paulo
Caixa Postal 668, São Carlos, SP. 13560-0960. Brazil.
Tel +55 (16) 273-9657. Fax +55 (16) 273-9751.
Yoshihide Ishiguro ([email protected])
Human Media Research Laboratories, NEC Corporation
8916-47, Takayama-cho. Ikoma, Nara 630-0101. Japan.
Tel. +81 (743) 72-3864. Fax +81 (743) 72-3549.
Bolot Kerimbaev ([email protected])
Gregory D. Abowd ([email protected])
Mark Guzdial ([email protected])
College of Computing & GVU Center, Georgia Tech
801 Atlantic Drive, Atlanta, GA 30332-0280, USA.
Tel. +1(404) 894-7512. Fax +1(404) 894-2970.
ABSTRACT
The Web is used for many purposes in education, such as the publication of course management
information, centralized distribution of course material, and supporting on-line discussions
between instructors and students or among the students themselves. Leveraging off the Web for
educational activities both inside and outside the classroom produces a dynamic educational
repository. In this paper, we present work that explicitly attempts to connect in-class activity, in
the form of multimedia, Web-accessible captured lectures, with collaborative discussion spaces.
Flexible and dynamic interfaces for the captured lectures and the discussion spaces are presented,
as well as specialized interfaces that connect the two. We discuss our experience in a recent
course taught using this integrated and dynamic educational repository and explain how our
experience has lead to some solutions for visualizing the changes that occur over this rich space.
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Keywords: educational application, ubiquitous computing, automated capture and access,
collaborative discussion, multimedia
1. INTRODUCTION
Few would question the impact that the World Wide Web has had in transforming our
information society. We are only beginning to understand our basic information consuming
tasks within this ubiquitous information infrastructure, as those tasks co-evolve with the rapid
pace of change in the infrastructure and content base itself. In this paper, we want to explore the
current and future impact of Web content change in the particular context of university
education.
Within most universities, the Web serves as a repository for educational materials. Skeptics
might point out that the Web initially provided only a fairly static information distribution
channel and served simply to off-load the task of photocopying from the institution to the
individual. This observation misses out on some of the more active uses of the Web that are
currently being explored. Many tools have been created in order to support the tasks of
publishing material generated outside of the classroom to the Web. However, there is less
support to provide Web access to material generated within the classroom and even less to
integrate that in-class experience with the rest of the educational material provided outside of the
classroom. Addressing that open area, and discussing solutions and challenges to providing
effective interfaces to what quickly becomes a large and dynamic information space, is the
purpose of this paper.
We have been involved for several years in a project to provide automated ways to transform the
rich content of a traditional university lecture into browsable, searchable and extensible digital
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media that serves both short- and long-term educational goals (Abowd et al., 1996; Abowd et al.,
1998; Brotherton, Abowd & Bhalodia, 1998; Abowd, 1999; Truong & Abowd, 1999). Our goal
in this paper is to demonstrate how captured live classroom lectures can serve as one part of a
rich and dynamic educational repository.
We will demonstrate by example how effective
interfaces to captured lectures can help a user (in this case, a student or an instructor) handle the
inherent dynamics of an ever-growing Web repository.
Overview
We will begin by describing our own framework for understanding the source and relationships
for how educational material evolves. We will then describe how in the past four years we have
used ubiquitous computing technology to instrument a classroom environment and provide
extensible and Web-accessible interfaces that capture much of the details of classroom lectures
and deal with providing a coherent view of an ever-growing repository of information. We next
discuss how the Web is used to facilitate collaborative discussions in an educational context and
how we have recently facilitated the anchoring of discussions and activities outside the lecture to
the captured lectures themselves. We have created an instance of an educational repository that
links in-class and outside-class activity, and we will report on that experience and the lessons
learned for presenting interfaces that provide useful indicators of change in the underlying
information.
2. A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE EVOLUTION OF EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
A typical classroom-based course usually runs for a certain period, or term, during which time
live lectures are presented on a regular basis, such as twice a week. Participating in such a course
is a highly demanding activity both for the students and the instructor. From the instructors’
perspective, many tasks have to be performed —preparing lectures, assignments and
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examinations, reviewing and assessing student work. Students are also engaged in many tasks
— reading, participating in class discussions, completing assigned personal or group work,
studying and taking exams. All of these tasks generate material that is in some way relevant to
the educational goals of the course. Some example artifacts for a given course might be any
slides prepared and presented by the instructors, and notes written on a public whiteboard during
lecture, and essays or assignments prepared by students outside of the lecture. The body of
material associated with a single course grows during the timeframe of the course itself.
Activities performed by students and instructors, at any time during a course, usually involve
knowledge acquired in more than one lecture, or even from previous courses. This scenario
illustrates the following features associated to the body of material generated in the course:

Active growth: The amount of material expands after each lecture during the course, as a
result of the contribution of all participants in the course.

Intrinsic referencing: The users, students and instructors, are constantly referring to any
portions of the material contained in the course.
It is a challenge for instructors and students to keep up with the amount of information produced
in a course. The diversity of activities performed by these users make it difficult to process the
information and store it for later retrieval. However, computers, with the help of ubiquitous
infrastructure like the Internet and the Web, are tools that should be exploited for helping the
users with the tasks of managing, storing and retrieving much of the ever changing information
produced in an educational setting.
The use of the Web associated to typical classroom-based courses has taken many forms, which
vary from the publication of course management information to supporting the delivery of
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material by instructors and students. For instance, management information includes course
description or assessment rules; instructors’ material includes list of readings and prepared
lectures; students’ material includes handing in essays and contributing articles to newsgroups.
Most tools that provide such support are meant to be used outside the classroom, offering
services that refer to material produced before or after the classroom experience, such as WebCT
(Goldberg & Salari, 1997) and DocTools (Pimentel, Santos & Fortes, 1998). Since these tools
are usually associated to an instance of a course, they are able to offer an interface that reflects
the growth of the body of material they support. However, because they are not directed toward
including information generated within the classroom during lecture, the rich multimedia
interaction that occurs during each lecture is left out of the Web repository associated to the
course.
In many courses the primary learning context is the classroom. Whether the classroom is used for
lecture, discussion, or even face-to-face collaborative activity, the experiences in the classroom
are often the central activities that we want students to reflect upon and learn from. Therefore, in
order to give a more comprehensive support for classroom-based courses, the tasks performed
inside the classroom have to be supported. Moreover, discussions occurring outside the
classroom also have to be integrated to the body of information for the course, particularly those
having contents discussed in the classroom in deeper or broader levels.
A spiral framework of dynamic course material generation
The body of information produced in a typical classroom-based course corresponds to activities
held both inside and outside the classroom, corresponding to before, during and after the live
lecture. Before the lecture, the instructor prepares the lecture content and students prepare by
going over assigned readings. During the lecture, the instructor’s activities include delivering the
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prepared presentation and answering to students’ questions, while the students’ tasks include
participating in discussion and taking notes. After the class, student’s work on homework and
discuss the class contents with the instructor and other students, while the instructor interacts
with students on clarifying class contents makes any adjustments in the course plan.
Such a perspective indicates that the body of information for a course is generated by many
diverse activities generated by different users at different times and places. Using lecture dates as
a landmark in the course, the various activities are categorized as to whether they occur before,
during or after a given lecture. As a course evolves, we consider the spiral of activities (shown
in Figure 1) that lead to the overall educational repository being created. Each traversal of the
spiral represents the activities associated with a single lecture. As each new lecture passes, the
body of information continues to grow. In addition, since most classes build up knowledge
based on previously presented material, the repository of information for the course becomes
more and more interrelated, many new concepts being built upon previously learned material.
This simple spiral framework illustrates two important features of the body of information being
generated, active growth and intrinsic referencing:

The active growth is indicated by: (a) the expansion of the spiral that, at each turn, covers a
larger space reflecting the amount of information produced, and (b) by the concentric
organization of each turn of the spiral, reflecting that the information produced in each turn
builds up over the previous existing information.

The intrinsic referencing is illustrated by the fact that the spiral traverses the three phases
while expanding, therefore allowing the users reference to material at any point in previous
time, independently of the phase in which it was produced.
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Before lecture

Instructor assigns readings

Instructor prepares contents

Instructor prepares slides

Instructor prepares quizzes

Instructor defines homework

Students work on readings

Instructor clarify contents to students
During lecture

Instructor delivers presentation

Students asks questions

Group holds discussion

Instructor presents quizzes

Students deliver homework

Instructor clarify contents to students
After lecture

Students discuss contents

Instructor clarify contents to students

Students work on homework

Instructor updates course info

Instructor grades students’ work

Students deliver homework
Figure 1: Spiral model of dynamic course material generation
In order to investigate the issues related to supporting activities as covered by the spiral model,
we have built an environment that supports some of activities in all three stages. Ultimately, this
provides the challenge of providing interfaces that accurately reflect the change in material and
the relationships between them. Our primary approach was to exploit the Web as the delivery
platform for both presenting and supporting the generation of the body of the information for the
course. Our target was to make the Web repository for a course to reflect the dynamic body of
information that is generated and updated as the teachers and students actively work during the
evolution of a course. We will describe our system in its two main parts. We will first describe
how the classroom experience is captured in an electronic form and made available in a
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multimedia format for later review. A growing repository of captured lectures from a course
alone presents interesting challenges when providing effective interfaces. We will discuss some
of our solutions that have been in place for the past three years and some of our more recent
advancements.
We will then discuss how separate research has developed Web-based
collaborative tools for educational uses and show how we have built an educational repository
for a single course that is a combination of captured lectures and collaborative work.
3. BRINGING THE CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE TO THE REPOSITORY
The classroom itself can be seen as a rich multimedia environment where dense audio-visual
information is combined with miscellaneous annotating activities that support the teaching and
learning experience. To capture this rich experience for later reflection, typical students develop
note-taking skills. It is becoming increasingly difficult for students to keep up with the barrage of
information instructors are enabled to present, especially when the student is equipped with only
paper and pen. We do not want to encourage students to hone stenographer-like skills in lieu of
understanding and synthesizing the relevance of the lecture and putting it in their own words.
Furthermore, the students' personal notes, in isolation of the rest of the lecture, are still hard to
use as an anchor for class-wide discussion of lecture activities.
In an attempt to ease the task of capturing the classroom activities and, at the same time, the
burden of creating Web-based digital media, we instrumented a space that turns the traditional
classroom into a multimedia authoring system. Our project (Abowd et al., 1996; Abowd et al.,
1998; Brotherton, Abowd & Bhalodia, 1998; Abowd, 1999) exploits:
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
ubiquitous computing technology —electronic whiteboards, large projected displays,
networked computers, and streaming digital audio/video— in order to create a room that
automatically captures much of the rich detail of a lecture experience;

the Web infrastructure to provide effective interfaces for both students and teachers to review
the lecture.
The result is twofold: the student is allowed to take on a different, more enriching role in the
classroom and, at the same time, the instructor is provided with a tool to generate Web-based
material without significant added effort. Figure 2 presents the actual classroom with the
capturing functionality (left), and a sample interface for reviewing the material on the Web
(right).
Figure 2: (left) The Classroom 2000 environment with the capturing whiteboard, projectors, cameras and
microphones. (right) Web browsers are used for reviewing the captured notes that link presented material
from the electronic whiteboard and Web pages visited in class with streaming digital audio/video recorded
during class.
There is little value in providing Web access to the contents for the captured lectures if no
services are provided to help the users in retrieving some relevant information. We will present
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some of the services provided for the ever-growing collection of captured lectures for a single
course next.
Presenting the contents of captured lectures
Access to the captured lecture information is most naturally done in the after-lecture and beforelecture phases: for instance, students may want to review some points discussed in a lecture
when preparing their homework, and instructors may want to review a set of lectures while
preparing a future one.
The collection of captured lectures for a single course is presented as a syllabus organized by
lecture dates. Figures 3 and 4 depict two different forms of syllabi that are dynamicallygenerated HTML pages. The repository of captured lectures is actually a database with a
standard SQL interface and all of the Web pages you will see in this section are generated by
server-side scripting that generates plain HTML dynamically. Each syllabus allows the student
to access a given lecture with either audio or video augmentation and in a way that can
Figure 3: Automatically-generated syllabus of captured lectures
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accommodate either a fast or slow network connection.
In Figure 3, the audio/video and
fast/slow options are provided as explicit links the user can select. In Figure 4, a separate set of
radio buttons before the syllabus allows the user to select audio/video or fast/slow that then
applies to the selection of the captured lecture for any date. The Web page shown in Figure 4
also integrates a form that allows searching over the repository. The use of this feature is
discussed later in this section.
Figure 4: Alternative syllabus interface
The lecture itself is divided into discrete slides, that typically represent one screen’s worth of
information generated on the electronic whiteboard (shown on the right of the classroom photo in
Figure 2). Instructors can use prepared presentations or simply write on a blank whiteboard in
class. Figure 5 shows notes from a class in which the instructor wrote on a blank whiteboard.
Figure 6 shows an example lecture in which a prepared presentation was shown. In each case, a
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timeline on the left depicts relevant activity as it happened in class. That relevant activity
indicates either a new slide being created on the whiteboard or a Web page being visited on a
Figure 5: Typical presentation interface for one-slide-a-time (blank
whiteboard)
separate display in class. The slide and Web page are marked with their title, when that
information is known. The ink on the slides is also sensitive, meaning that clicking on the
instructor’s handwriting will launch an audio or video player at the point in the lecture when the
instructor wrote that annotation.
Providing access to the right portion of audio or video when reviewing the contents of a lecture
may be a difficult task. The presentation interface supports some resources for helping the user in
locating a particular piece of audio our video. The timeline is used as an index to the
corresponding offset within the media stream. The instants in which the instructor switched
between slides are also recorded, and are indicated in the interface using the number of visits that
a slide had above the slide itself; the number can be used to index in the stream of media.
Finally, all the markings done by the instructor (handwriting and drawings) are presented as
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Figure 6: Presentation interface for all slides at once (using
prepared slides)
indexing anchors to the stream. This integration between the handwritten ink and the audio or
video is itself an interesting challenge, and has been addressed elsewhere (Brotherton, Abowd &
Bhalodia, 1998). This last feature is particularly important, since an instructor can spend a long
time presenting a single slide, and the timeline and slide transition landmarks do not offer
adequate granularity for indexing in that timeframe. Moreover, the marking itself is likely to
provide a good index for the audio and video captured when it was produced.
Augmenting the content of material captured during lecture
Much of the information captured during the classroom experience can be enhanced in order to
provide a richer material to students as well as to instructors. We provide some simple editing
services to allow additional information to be associated with a lecture after it has been captured.
When prepared slides are used, the same tool that provides the service for loading their content
in the database also provides textual contents to the database. As a result, information relative to
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the title, text and notes of each slide are stored associated to the lecture where they were
presented. The utility of such information has already been demonstrated in Figure 6 when a
slide’s title is used to decorate the lecture timeline. When that type of information cannot be
automatically extracted, as in the case when the instructor only writes on a blank electronic
whiteboard, the provision of an editing interface allows the instructor to augment the information
relative to a captured lecture. In Figure 7 we show the editing interface that allows the instructor
to provide additional information about a lecture, such as slide titles, translation of handwriting
(handwriting recognizers do not perform well when handwritten text is combined with gestures
and drawings) and additional comments on the lecture discussion.
Figure 7: Lecture editing interface
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Any annotation provided by the instructor in the original prepared slides, during the beforelecture phase, is loaded in the database and shown in the presentation interface under the
corresponding slide, as illustrated in Figure 8.
Figure 8: Annotation to a particular slide shown in the presentation interface
Supporting search
As a course evolves, the quantity of captured information also grows. Using the syllabus
organization helps a student locate information from the class, but it is not the only way that is
useful. A general search capability over the content of lectures can help a student find a relevant
part of a given lecture or see how different lectures are related along a common topic.
We provide a simple search interface, as shown earlier in Figure 4 (directly above the syllabus
listing). Given a query phrase, the search engine searches the database for the specific terms in
all the information streams available for the course. These streams include the instructor’s
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handwriting, the content of prepared slides, the title and content of Web pages visited and even a
voice transcript from the lecture. Figure 9 shows screenshots of sample search results. The left
screenshot shows a summary of search results over a single course, with thumbnails of various
slides from class shown to give some context for search results. These results are divided by
lecture and further details can be requested, as shown on the right of Figure 9, and that will
indicate the specific details of matches to that particular lecture.
MATCHES ON VOICE
TRANSCRIPT
MATCHES ON SLIDE TEXT
INSTRUCTOR'S ANNOTATION
Figure 9: (left) List of lectures and corresponding (thumbnail version of the) slides. (right) Search results
classify which type of data matched the query (in this case: voice transcript, text extracted from prepared
slide of annotations added by the instructor in the editing interface).
A more elaborated query can be specified in an alternative interface provided. The interface on
top of Figure 10 allows the specification of data type, list of lectures and whether or not to use
sensitive search. The bottom portion of the figure presents the result of a query that specified
search of handwriting information data only. The search interfaces can be made available in
several scopes, such as in the syllabus page of the course and in the presentation interface of each
lecture.
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ADVANCED SEARCH
MATCHING
HANDWRITING
4. AFigure
NCHORING DISCUSSIONS IN LECTURE: AN APPROACH
10: Advanced search allows selection of the data
Etype
XTENDING
CLASSROOM
considered
in the searchDIGITAL MEDIA
TO
COLLABORATIVELY
Many computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments provide collaboration
support in terms of a medium for discussion. Threaded discussion spaces, such as MFKSpeakeasy (Hsi & Hoadley, 1997), provide a mechanism for asynchronous discussion where the
structure of the discussion is reflected in the interface. In chat systems, MUDs, or MOOs
(Bruckman, 1994; Bruckman & Resnick, 1995), the collaborative environment is a medium for
synchronous collaboration. However, in classroom-based courses, there is a danger that the
discussion forums may be decontextualized from the students' activity.
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Several CSCL tools being used in higher education can be used for anchored discussions (e.g.,
CoNote (Davis & Huttenlocher, 1995)). Since many higher-education classroom contexts today
have syllabi or assignment descriptions available on the Web, these could be used to promote
anchored collaborations in which the discussion is linked directly to an artifact of interest to
students (Guzdial et al., 1997; Guzdial & Turns, 1999; Hmelo, Guzdial & Turns, 1998). By
anchoring the collaboration to material useful to the students (e.g., a midterm exam review, a
problem statement, a report to review), the discussion becomes more relevant to the students'
activities. In particular, anchored discussions tend to be more sustained than less-connected
discussion spaces, such as newsgroups (Guzdial, 1997). In lower grades where significant
resources are available on-line, such as in the Virtual High School (Hsi, 1999), anchored
collaboration can be also used.
The CoWeb: a tool for collaborative authoring Web-based material
One interesting implementation of a CSCL tool is the CoWeb, which allows collaborative
authoring of Web-based material (Guzdial, 1999a; Guzdial, 1999b). A CoWeb allows any user to
edit any page in its website. In the CoWeb, new pages can be created and linked by anyone, and
permission is granted for anyone to edit and create links in already existing pages. This simple
infrastructure has supported a wide variety of collaborative activities, from group writing to
telementoring. Figure 11 presents a typical front page for a CoWeb site.
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Figure 11: A typical CoWeb Front Page
The interface of a CoWeb page is very simple, and contains a header, a body and footer. The
header contains the top line and the name of the page. The topmost line presents a list of links
that give access to functions such as Edit this Page and Recent Changes, discussed below. Next,
the name of the page is presented; the name itself is associated to the Search for References
feature. When the name is selected, a special page listing all pages that make a reference to the
current page via a hypertext link is presented. The footer may contain links to services such as a
traditional search over all pages. Between the header and the footer is the body of the page, that
can be created and edited by any user.
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When the Edit this Page function is activated, the editing interface is presented, as illustrated in
Figure 12. The editing interface is a simple Web page that presents the contents of the original
page (even if empty) in a form, which can freely modified: any valid HTML contents can be
used. The page is saved by submitting the form, and the new contents are immediately presented.
Figure 12: A CoWeb page (foreground) and its editing interface (background).
A feature especially powerful in this context is that the CoWeb is persistent. Pages exist over
time. When the Recent Changes feature is activated from any page, a new special page lists
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when each page in the CoWeb has been changed in reverse chronological order, as illustrated in
Figure 13, so that new additions or edits can be easily identified.
Figure 13: A CoWeb "Recent Changes" page
The CoWeb is a very informal and unstructured Web repository. Any structure can be built by
using the capability of creating internal and external links. However, in order to induce its
effective use, a few guidelines are usually followed. These include the demand for any user to
identify any editions made and the use of appropriate material and structure.
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CoWebs have been used in the same course across multiple instances of the class, or in related
courses to create cross-classroom integration and transfer. For this paper, the interest is in how
they can be integrated with captured lecture notes to provide anchors between in-class and
outside-class activities.
Integrating captured lectures and extended collaborative discussions
Our vision is for captured classroom activity to serve as one kind of learning media that is
available to students outside of the classroom. We want classroom experiences to be segmentable
material that can be:

discussed and extended later;

persistent over time so that certain experiences (like a particularly nice lecture
explanation) can be revisited and even reinterpreted;

indexed with collaborative discussion spaces; and

searched for relevant pieces that can be linked to a new discussion or topic, even in new
classes and contexts.
To provide such functionality, we integrated capture system with the CoWeb system. This
involved providing ways for the independent information spaces to have links created into the
other. A captured lecture needed to have a way to be placed easily into a CoWeb discussion and
a CoWeb discussion space needed a way to easily provide a link into a lecture.
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Creating a CoWeb entry from the C2000 captured notes
When a student visits the notes from a captured lecture, links to new or ongoing discussion pages
in the CoWeb can be created via a simple form interface, as shown in Figure 15. When the
CoWeb server receives the link request, it either creates a new discussion page (in the case of a
new discussion topic) or appends to the already existing discussion page, adding a thumbnail
image of the lecture slide that provides an anchor back to the captured lecture. The resulting
CoWeb discussion page is shown in Figure 16. The link established from the captured lecture
notes is added, so that a student can jump right to the discussion space, if desired.
Figure 15: A view of the captured lecture notes. Links to the CoWeb discussion space are shown directly
under a slide. A new link can be created after any slide by filling in the simple form beneath that slide. In
the example shown here, the student enters "How is this related to the waterfall model?" to create a new
discussion page in the CoWeb that will be automatically linked to this point of the captured lecture.
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Viewing a CoWeb entry from the C2000 captured notes
When a student is viewing captured lecture notes, all links to the CoWeb discussion space are
shown, as in Figure 15. If the student selects a link to a discussion page, that CoWeb page is
shown in a new browser. The CoWeb page will include a thumbnail image of the slide that links
back to the captured lecture, as shown in Figure 16.
Figure 16: A view of a CoWeb page. This particular page corresponds to the entry created from the
captured lecture notes shown in Figure 15. The thumbnail image is a link back to the captured lecture and
was automatically created when the link request was made.
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5. EXPERIENCE WITH A REAL COURSE
To gain experience with the integrated capture/CoWeb, we experimented with a graduate
seminar course. This computer science course was taught by one of the authors and another coinstructor, and had 31 students, both graduate and senior undergraduate. In total, there were 18
lectures over a 10-week period, consisting of 27 hours of lecture (with audio and video),
covering 307 slides of information and 486 Web pages visited. Seven of the lectures had a
prepared lecture presentation, and the remaining 11 used a blank whiteboard. The course
consisted of a mix of traditional lecture and discussions based on a large number of outside
readings, 69 in total, that were listed off a separate Web page from the course Home Page and
were mostly available on-line for reading. After class, one instructor manually transcribed the
handwriting on the electronic whiteboard (205 of 317 slides), added titles to slides that did not
have one already (101 of 317 slides) and provided additional commentary on some slides (27 of
317).
Use of the CoWeb was required in the class, so a lot of activity was created in that discussion
space, totalling 303 independent pages created by students and instructors. For each reading
assigned in class, one or more students were assigned responsibility for preparing a summary of
the paper and posting it to the CoWeb prior to the lecture. Students and instructors were free to
read and comment upon the reading summary. The papers were usually discussed in class and
students were then responsible for updating their summary based on lecture discussion. Student
groups were responsible for two external projects in the class, and the project reports were to be
posted to the CoWeb as well. Occasionally, projects were presented in class and all were
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commented upon by the instructors. Students were encouraged to comment on projects of other
groups, but very little commentary was provided via the CoWeb.
Each CoWeb page was visited and average of 62 times and edited and average of 11 times. By
the end of the quarter, the average CoWeb page had been in the discussion space for 29 days.
Visits to the CoWeb experienced a steady growth, with an average of 2173 hits per week, which
indicates fairly intense activity throughout the term. The most visited pages in the CoWeb were
those corresponding to landmarks in terms of deliverables or assignments in the course. Eight
out of the ten most visited pages were those that indexed into material such as reading summaries
or project summaries.
This certainly indicates the appropriateness of such landmarks and
indexing as resources for aiding the users to navigate over the underlying hypertext structure of
the material.
Since much of the CoWeb material was discussed in class, there was a natural desire to link what
was produced in the CoWeb with the lecture at various points. It was also possible when writing
a reading summary or doing an external project, that topics would be discussed that were already
brought up in previous lectures. Therefore, we saw a potential use for two-way links between
the repository of captured lectures and the CoWeb discussion space. 66 links were made during
the course between captured lectures and the CoWeb space, for an average of 3.6 links per
lecture. That is not as high a value as had been expected, but not surprising for such a novelty.
Most of the links were created, in fact, by the instructor, as a means of demonstrating the
capability to students.
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Figure 17: The HotStuff page shows most recent changes in combined repository .
Students indicated that they found the Recent Changes feature of the CoWeb useful for
navigating that discussion space. This feature was accessed a total of 1446 times throughout the
term, which is a very strong indicator of its value. It provided a simple way to find out what was
new information in the loosely organized space. Although the environment we provided students
integrated the captured lectures with the discussion space through manual linking, we did not
provide an interface to let the student understand “recent changes” in the integrated space. In
response, we designed a separate and dynamically-generated Web page, called HotStuff that
produced a listing of newly captured lectures as well as a summary of CoWeb recent changes.
This interface, shown in Figure 17, also indicates when a lecture is linked to CoWeb space and
vice versa. The captured lectures are listed in the leftmost column, displaying the first slide
created for the four most recently captured lectures. For each lecture, additional information
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includes the title and date of the lecture, and an icon indicates when that lecture contains a link to
pages in the CoWeb. The column in the right hand side presents the list of CoWeb pages edited
in the same period, with the date and time of edition. An icon also indicates whether that CoWeb
page has a link to the captured notes for a lecture.
6. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
In this paper, we have examined some of the issues involved in providing effective interfaces to
a dynamic repository of educational material. We can view an educational material generated by
a single course as an ever-growing repository of information that instructors and students
contribute to through activities that occur before, during and after the traditional lecture. The
lecture itself can be viewed as a multimedia authoring session in order to create browsable,
searchable, and extensible Web-accessible media that reflects this critical component of the
educational experience. In addition, anchored collaborative discussions can link between the live
lecture and other pieces of educational material. We have demonstrated the possibility of such a
repository that links in-class and outside-class activities and we have gained experience using
this system for an entire course.
Our preliminary experience shows that there are very interesting technical questions to be
addressed in providing effective interfaces to this dynamic educational repository.
Before
continuing this research, however, we must answer the question of whether this is a useful
educational endeavor. For that answer, we surveyed the students to find their reactions to the
integration between captured lectures and the CoWeb discussion space. 21 of the 31 students
responded to our survey about halfway through the term. In general, the students make more use
of the CoWeb than the C2000 captured notes: 71.4% of the students visit the captured lecture
notes at least once a week and 95.2% visit the CoWeb discussion space at least once a week.
Page 28 of 32
Considering the captured notes and the CoWeb pages separately, the students reported that they
believe they attained a better understanding of the material in class with the use of the CoWeb
pages (85.7% agree, 9.5% neutral, 4.8% disagree) than through the captured lecture notes (57.1%
agree, 38.1% neutral, 4.8% disagree). This is not surprising, given the structure of the course and
there being no traditional exam in the course. However, considering the integrated environment,
it is interesting that over half of the group (66.7%) perceived that they had a better understanding
of the material in class through coordinated use of both captured notes and the CoWeb
discussion space (28.3% neutral, 4.9% disagree). Students felt it was useful to be able to access
the CoWeb pages from the C2000 captured notes (57.1% agree, 42.9 neutral), and, conversely, to
access the captured lectures from the CoWeb pages (52.4% agree, 42.9% neutral, 4.8%
disagree). This indicates that, for a course with such a format, the integration of the access to the
material, as provided, gives further supported for the learning tasks from the user's perspective.
This result is also a positive indication that the service provided helped the students to deal with
the active growth and intrinsic referencing properties of the material.
Thus, our preliminary experience indicates that this integration of in-class and outside-class
material is useful and worthy of more serious evaluation.
We will continue this type of
experimentation in the near future. A major goal, however, is to provide greater capabilities to
reuse captured material and associated discussion spaces in future educational experiences.
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